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Chad Johnson is happy the NFL is getting back to being fun again

‘Ochocinco’ talks ‘Madden 18,’ celebration rules, cleats and why in the world Terrell Owens isn’t in the Hall of Fame

Long before Antonio Brown’s twerking and Odell Beckham Jr.’s love-hate relationship with a kicking net, there was Chad Johnson and the infectious pizzazz he delivered to the NFL. The retired wide receiver, who played 10 seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and one for the New England Patriots, brought a creative style and swagger to the field that many who’ve come after him have attempted to replicate. But no player pushed the limits of excitement on the field quite like No. 85. “Have I ever had a reason for why I do what I do?” Johnson said in 2008, after legally changing his name to “Ochocinco.” “I’m having fun.”

Every NFL Sunday during his career, fans tuned in for the Chad Johnson show, and to be dazzled by his electric plays in hopes that he’d reach the end zone. Because when he did, Johnson always had something up his sleeve for the touchdown celebration — from river dancing, to putting the football with an end zone pylon, to breaking out a sombrero on the sidelines after a score.

Six years after playing his final down of football in the NFL, Ochocinco’s personality and flair remain relevant. He gave NFL commissioner Roger Goodell advice for the league’s new touchdown rule, continues to advocate for his former teammate Terrell Owens’ induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is even featured on the “Longshot” story mode of the newly released Madden 18. Before the video game dropped on Aug. 25, The Undefeated caught up with Johnson, who discussed his go-to team to play with on Madden, his love of soccer, the NFL’s new rules on celebrations and cleats, and why Owens will always be the Batman to his Robin.

How’s it feel to be in Madden 18’s new Longshot story mode?

It’s dope. Like, really dope. The fact that I have the opportunity to still be a part of the game of Madden, such an entity of that magnitude, something I always grew up playing and watching. After being a part of it as a player for years, I’m out the game now, but still able to be a part of it. Dog, that’s f—ing phenomenal.

Do you remember the first Madden you ever played?

I forgot what year it was, but I believe it was on Sega. And John Madden was on the cover. It was a longgggg time ago.

Do you remember the first time you were featured on the game as a player? What was that like?

In 2001. I remember it as a rookie. It was really dope to be able to see yourself. I was never able to envision myself on the video game, but the first time you were able to play, via yourself, it was cool. But you know what’s crazy? I never used myself anyway; I always used the Dolphins, because I’m from Miami. So anytime I play a sports game, I always use the Florida teams.

Besides yourself, which NFL player was the best video gamer that you ever experienced?

You know what? They all say they’re good, but I’ve beaten them all. From the NBA players to the NFL players to a few soccer players that play FIFA. They can all play because they all are very competitive, but none of them actually have the time to sit down and hone the skill set that I actually have being that I’m retired.

What’s the craziest lie you’ve ever told?

I didn’t sleep with her.

“I mean, c’mon. That goes without saying. Terrell Owens should be in the Hall of Fame. I just have no time for the damn politics.”

Who’s your favorite superhero and why?

I don’t have a favorite superhero. I didn’t read comics … not even as a kid.

When you and Terrell Owens were in Cincinnati, people called you two Batman and Robin. Who was really Batman, and who was Robin?

He was Batman. It was out of respect. We’re talking about T.O., man! He was one of the best, if not the best to f—ing suit it up. So I had no problem taking a back seat to one of my favorite receivers growing up.

Should T.O. be in the Hall of Fame?

I mean, c’mon. That goes without saying. T.O. should be in the Hall of Fame. I just have no time for the damn politics.

Where do you get your swag from?

Probably my upbringing. Just being from Liberty City, Miami.

Who’s the best soccer player in the world right now?

Cristiano Ronaldo. Period. It goes without saying. He just is.

Not Lionel Messi?

Who?

You don’t like Messi?

Who?

What about Neymar?

Oooh, Neymar is nice.

Have you ever been starstruck?

No … but I am waiting to meet Johnny Depp and Daniel Day-Lewis, then I’ll be starstruck. Deada–. Those are the only two people that I really admire as actors, their range as actors. Being able to get lost in character and what they’re able to do on the big screen is phenomenal. I’ve met Denzel Washington. … I’ve met everybody. But those are the two that I have yet to meet.

What was your first major purchase after you got drafted in 2001?

Uhhh, p—y. … It was probably my first car: Lexus IS300.

What would be your go-to karaoke song?

‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd … Oh, yeah. Oh, f— yeah.

What’s your spirit animal, and why?

The orca. You should know that. They’re the smartest mammal in the sea, s—, let alone Earth. They’re just brilliant at everything they do. The way they hunt. The way they communicate. They’re the largest dolphin in the sea, which a lot of people don’t know — they are dolphins. They’re just fabolous.

Who in the NFL right now could beat you in your prime in a footrace?

Probably some of those dudes who run 4.2s right now. John Ross … it’s a few of them. It’s a few that are what we called ‘crackhead fast’ growing up.

The league has relaxed its rules on touchdown celebrations. How do you feel about that?

It’s dope, and now that they’ve loosened up, I want them to pay attention to the ratings — the people who are watching — now that they’ve allowed football to be fun. They’ve allowed players to express themselves through celebrations. As long as it’s not disrespectful to their opponents, and nothing malicious.

Out of all the celebrations from your career, which one was your favorite?

Probably the proposal. That one was dope.

The league has also loosened up on its rules on custom cleats. How do you feel about that?

That’s dope as well. Some of the players that are endorsed by certain products, that’s gonna be huge. They can make a pretty penny, with companies being able to get their products out — seeing them through certain players and individuals. Players can make beaucoup bucks, and these companies can profit extremely well.

When you look back at your career, do you think you were ahead of your time in terms of the flashiness, swag and celebrations you brought to the field?

You know what, with some of the rules that the NFL is loosening up on, and some of the things that are happening, we’re in 2017 now, and I was doing this almost 20 years ago. I might have been ahead of my time.

Is Madden 18 the best of all time?

Probably so. Because each year, you already know they improve on something and add something different so it’s better than the last. And technology being as advanced as it is, it can only go up from here.

Besides the Dolphins, which team are you playing with on Madden 18?

Just the Dolphins. I never switch up.

Aaron Dodson is an assistant editor at The Undefeated. Often mistaken for Aaron Dobson of the Arizona Cardinals, he is one letter away from being an NFL wide receiver.